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o p e n  s t u d i o  d a y

artist in residence

@hangar, artistic research center lisbon, rua damasceno monteiro, 12 r/c, 1170-112 lisbon

october 25th 2022, 6pm


[of sitting and caning]

„what natural is, is more difficult to define than one might think. because the answer depends on the historical and cultural context. what was true in the past is no longer true, and what is natural in one culture may not be so elsewhere. there is neither pure nature nor pure culture, but our living world consists of a mixture of nature and culture, the boundaries of which are difficult to determine. 

the example of sitting is a good illustration of how different the natural can be. sitting is, along with lying, standing and walking, one of the most fundamental postures of the human being. before it can stand and walk, the baby learns to sit. evolution, for the benefit of man, seems to have given her/him this ability. such a natural phenomenon as sitting, undergoes a fascinating cultural imprint, because it is defined differently in each society, which manifests itself as the etiquette of proper sitting.“ (referring to: hoo nam seelmann, the culture of sitting in korea

sitting on a chair shapes the human body in a different way than sitting on the floor does: the muscles of the legs, buttocks and back are formed in different ways. this affects the movement patterns that are familiar vs. unfamiliar to the body. if the familiar sitting posture changes – meaning, if the familiar changes into something unfamiliar – the body reacts with irritation: with pain, with numbness, with tension; the body resists, it wants back what it knows to interpret in order to find its way back into a posture that is familiar to it and seems to be natural. the sitting posture is mainly determined by the objects that we sit on: chairs, stools, mats, pillows, etc. these objects differ not only in their format but also in their manufacture, materiality and design (e.g. by the inclusion of paintings or patterns and ornaments, etc.). this shaping and design is/was often culturally conditioned. 


at the beginning of their invention, chairs and mats represented luxury objects and were owned only by kings and aristocrats. in the course of their respective histories, they emancipated themselves into popular bourgeois and everyday objects of use, which affected the appearance of living space and the body posture of its inhabitants.
in the meantime, cultural ideas about what constitutes natural or ‚proper‘ sitting are influential and intertwining: just as people in many parts of asia sit on chairs, people in europe are currently approaching an understanding that sitting on the floor can be decelerating and relieving for the body. (this is particularly evident regarding the increasing interest in meditation techniques from the asian region). 


because of my interest in sitting, i started to recane seats of chairs and mats. i use paper which i shred to get strips of equal width to cane the seats. i understand the shredding as an act of separation, of dividing and splitting into several strands, while the caning means a reuniting, bringing together and becoming one. due to their materiality, the finished paper seats are not suitable for sitting on but only serve to trace the patterns. 

i work without instructions or learning the technique and thus solely on the basis of observation. my interest is in understanding and being able to reproduce the patterns that the seating surfaces own. by recaning the seating surfaces the following questions arose and became relevant to me: on which „patterns“ do we settle? what structures give us a secure foothold and provide a place to sit on?, showed up and became relevant to me. which patterns are familiar to us and which remain unseen? 


during my artist-in-residence stay in lisbon, i finished working on two sitting mats and one sitting area of a chair, and make them publicly accessible for the first time. 


stuhlgeflecht (karomuster), 2022, paper, cardboard, 20 x 20 cm 
sitzmatte 2, 2022, paper, cardboard, dibond, 93 x 93 cm 
sitzmatte 3, 2022, paper, cardboard, 70 x 100 cm 

photos ©anja nowak

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